English skills: which country tops the global ranking?


The English language occupies an increasingly important place in people’s lives, whether through social networks, entertainment, or professional jargon. However, the learning of the language remains highly variable globally, and even regionally, as a new study reveals.

Education First, a company specialising in foreign-language learning, asked 2.2 million people in 113 countries to take an English test. The average age of the participants was 28, and 55% were women.

Twelve countries achieved high scores, putting them in the “very high proficiency” category, with the Netherlands, Singapore and Austria making up the top three. Indeed, most of the nations at the top are in Europe, except Singapore (no. 2) and South Africa (no. 9).

Most importantly, Malaysia ranks no. 25 on this list, placing it in the “high proficiency” (but not “very” high!) category.

Europe is the continent where English is best spoken, written and understood in this survey, although there are significant differences between countries. Belgium is in seventh place, for example, while Spain and Italy occupy joint 35th place.

France is tied with Cuba for 43rd place, putting both countries in the “moderate proficiency” category for English skills.

In addition, some of the northern European countries with the highest skill levels exhibit a gap in proficiency of over 40 points in favour of men. This phenomenon, however, extends beyond the region: proficiency levels between genders are disparate in many parts of the world, including Iran, Nicaragua, and Sri Lanka.

English British England Language Education Concept Stock Illustration -  Illustration of design, browsing: 58368527

Interestingly, these differences are more marked among 18- to 25-year-olds than among working adults, suggesting they are influenced by education systems themselves, or are linked to a societal issue that schools are failing to address.

The report underlines just how important a good knowledge and understanding of English is these days, especially in the professional sphere. Mastery of English is a vital skill in the job market, whatever the sector.

For many professionals, an insufficient level of proficiency is a major obstacle to career advancement. It can also be detrimental to their productivity, given that the vast majority of documents and other sources of information available online are written in English.

The top 10 countries with very high proficiency in English are:

  1.  Netherlands
  2.  Singapore
  3.  Austria
  4.  Denmark
  5.  Norway
  6.  Sweden
  7.  Belgium
  8.  Portugal
  9.  South Africa
  10.  Germany

You May Also Like…